haqqani: Sirajuddin Haqqani makes his first public appearance – Times of India

ISLAMABAD: Afghanistan interior minister and Taliban deputy chief Sirajuddin Haqqani made his maiden public appearance at a ceremony in Kabul on Saturday where he was openly photographed for the first time.
Sirajuddin has always avoided public appearances before and after becoming the country’s interior minister; he was usually represented by his younger brother, Anas Haqqani, at meetings and public events.
He, however, made his public appearance to address a passing-out parade for new Afghan police recruits in Kabul. His photographs were widely shared by Taliban officials on social media who, in the past, had only posted photographs that didn’t show his face or those in which it had been digitally blurred.
“For your satisfaction and for building your trust … I am appearing in the media in a public meeting with you,” a heavily bearded Haqqani, wearing a black turban and white shawl, said in a speech at the parade. “I appeared in front of the media for the first time because of your credibility and to value you,” he told police officials.
The event was was broadcast live on Afghanistan’s national television.
Haqqani also appealed to Afghans abroad to return to their country on the basis of a general amnesty, claiming that no one would face any security problems. His appeal, however, seems to have less impact considering the harsh and humiliating treatment meted out to women activists, artists, musicians, journalists and other professionals since the Taliban took control of the country in August last year.
The Islamic Emirate, Haqqani said, posed no threat to any country. “Afghanistan’s soil would not be a threat to anyone. The Islamic Emirate is committed to upholding the commitments it made in Doha,” he said.
Responding to international criticism about restrictions on women, especially women’s right to work, Haqqani said a number of female police members have graduated on Saturday. Among the 377 police officials who graduated from Kabul’s police academy, 21 were women. Haqqani said the new graduates, including the women, will be recruited to government departments.
The son of Jalaluddin Haqqani, the slain founder of the Haqqani Network, Sirajuddin has been considered as one of the most powerful Taliban figures. After the death in 2013 of Taliban’s longtime chief Mullah Muhammad Omar, he became Taliban’s military chief and one of the two deputies to Mullah Akhtar Mansour, the new Taliban chief, along with Haibatullah Akhundzada who would eventually succeed Mansour after his death in a US drone strike in Pakistan in 2016.
After Akhunzada’s elevation to emir of the Taliban, Mullah Muhammad Yaqoob, son of Mullah Omar, was made the second deputy alongside Sirajuddin.
Mansour and Akhundzada’s lack of battlefield experience gave Sirajuddin almost complete control over Taliban’s military strategy and operations. According to a Taliban commander, after 2016 Sirajuddin became so powerful no one dared change the smallest of plans of attack without his consent.
Top political and military appointments, including of shadow governors in Afghan provinces, were not possible without Sirajuddin’s approval. Already a towering powerhouse, after Jalaluddin’s death in 2018 Sirajuddin formally succeeded his father as chief of the Haqqani Network.
Within three years, Sirajuddin assumed the office of Afghanistan interior minister. Soon after assuming charge, he organised a gathering in Kabul for families of the suicide bombers and announced cash and plots of land for them, describing the bombers as “martyrs”. In an over 30-minute speech, he publicly claimed to be the mastermind of the attacks and vowed to be more ruthless against the Taliban’s enemies.

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